Friday, April 22, 2011

Death and significance

It has been far too long.

But here I am being brief.

If I start to make you sad, I promise there's a happy ending.

Death is a three-pronged thing: a possibility, an eventuality, an option, all three faces turned toward us at all times. It makes the conscious life of a humanbeast a disturbingly sealed-off thing, not only in the crowded space of the skull, but in the worryingly brief duration between birth (approximately) and death (which can also be an approximate sort of thing). It seems quite absurd that one's own consciousness should at some point be simply extinguished, but if the conclusions I've offered so far are accepted, everyone's will be, eventually. The first-hand memory of every joy and sorrow and every brilliant insight any of us ever experience will be purged from existence with no sensible trace. This hard little truth doesn't do this for everyone, but it does it for me: it makes me want to ask, what's it all for, if it all just goes away?

I've learned to channel such thoughts outward, to turn away from introspective reverie toward the larger world we all share and experience in our own special ways. The world is bigger than me; my life is bigger than me. The events captured in the perishable and imperfect record of my memory didn't just effect me, and my responses to them were not just ornaments in my personal perspective; everything I have ever experienced has effected my behavior, and continues to do so in some small way, and everything I do makes some kind of difference in the world. I move things around, and people move around me, talking, laughing, yelling, smoldering, wondering, wishing, loving, giving, accepting. This effect I necessarily have on the world around me, along with everything that can be inferred or interpreted from my sheer existence, is the significance of my life, my significance, the outpouring of my tragically delicate and preciously unique field of experience into the world beyond it, the mark of this organism's constitution and history upon the invincible memory of reality as a whole.

To recognize my own significance in this way is to take a step outside of that worried, self-absorbed world of introspection, and to understand that my doomed (maybe not dramatically so at the moment) consciousness is not all there is to me. Though all of my cherished learning and the sound of her laughter and the touch of her skin and the Milky Way seen from a dark mountain and Boingo and Cohen and the Femmes and the Scissor Sisters will eventually be forgotten by me, they have touched a thousand lives, in ways I'll never know, through the ways that they have moved me.

But I don't care about every little effect I have on the world. No number of changes I make in circumstances that I do not value can make it seem any less ridiculous that I am here now, when I consider that I'll be gone tomorrow. When confronted with the tragedy and cruelty and waste and misfortune that the human condition seems to make inevitable, the slice of of my significance that stands up to every evil, that keeps the light of life burning, is that which I have with respect to the people, places, things, practices, the members of every ontological kind, that I love.

Enough for now. I'll go on about love in future entries. It'll rock your face.

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